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XLVII

THE TRAGEDY OF KERBELA    45
he served with conspicuous loyalty and courage. The
Shias firmly believe that the angel Gabriel visited the
Prophet at Mecca during the course of the " Farewell
Pilgrimage" and instructed him to proclaim Ali as his
successor. The ceremony was performed during the
course of the return journey at the Pool of Khumm,
where a throne was constructed from camel-saddles. Ali
was set thereon by the Prophet, who then enfolded the
" Lion of Allah "1 in such a close and long embrace that
his virtues were transmitted to his illustrious son-in-law.
This investiture is annually commemorated in Persia as
" the Festival of the Pool of Khumm." In accepting it
as authoritative the Shias naturally reject as usurpers
Abu Bekr, Omar, and Othman, and deem Ali and his
descendants, the Imams,2 to be the only true successors
of the Prophet. So exalted is Ali, the " Hand of God/7
that the saying runs, " Mohamed is a city of learning,
Ali is its gate/'
The sacred Imams, whose nature knew no sin and
whose bodies cast no shadow, are the intercessors between
man and God. They are invested with supreme spiritual
leadership and hold in consequence a far higher position
than that of the prophets. It is believed that the twelfth
Imam never died, but in A.H. 260 (873) disappeared into
miraculous concealment, from which he will reappear on
the Day of Judgment in the mosque of Gauhar Shad at
Meshed, to be hailed as the Mahdi or " Guide " and to
fill the earth with justice.
It is needless to say that beliefs such as these render
those who hold them bitterly hostile to the general body
of Moslems, who rest their doctrine on the authority of the
Prophet and the early Caliphs—including, of course, Ali.
As will be seen later on, bloody wars have raged between
the Sunnis or cc Traditionists "and the Shias analogous to
those between our Protestant ancestors and the Roman
Catholics of Spain, and to-day union between these two
great divisions of the Moslem world appears to be as
unattainable as ever.
1 One of the many titles of All.
2 Imam signifies a spiritual and temporal ruler and a leader by divine right,